Owen’s latest gimmick

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici explained to the press the measures proposed by the government in order that Parliament will be in a position to examine its political appointees nominated to head various state agencies or institutions as well as those appointed to ambassadorships from outside the civil service.

Naturally, the first reaction to Owen Bonnici’s declaration is that government’s proposal is a positive small first step. However, when the detailed proposal was published, it was clear that this was another gimmick. It is proposed that a Parliamentary Standing Committee will be able to examine potential political appointees through written questions. On the basis of the answers received, and supplementary (written) questions, the Parliamentary Standing Committee will be expected to advise the government on the appointments under consideration.

This is a far cry from what is expected in a modern democracy.

Parliament, either directly or through a standing committee, should not be expected to simply advise. It should decide on the suitability or otherwise of the government nominees. This should be done after the nominees have been examined in a public hearing in the same manner as that of the US Senate Committees or the Parliamentary Committees of various other countries. This can only be done if Parliament reclaims the powers it has ceded to the government over the years.

Parliamentary scrutiny means much more than answering a set of written questions. Examining the nominees to ascertain their suitability for the post they have been nominated goes much further than the superficial examination of their professional competence. It also entails the examination of their past performance in order to ascertain whether they are capable of withstanding political pressure which seeks to sway their judgement in favour of political expediency and consequently influence their behaviour.

Such an exercise cannot be done through written questions but through a viva voce examination where it is not only what is said that matters. Interpreting body language and reactions to unexpected questions or statements is generally more relevant than deciphering boring, long-winded answers that go around in circles and generally avoid providing an answer at all.

During the general election campaign a few months ago, we were told that we needed “Labour-proof institutions”. In reality, government institutions and agencies should be at arms length from the government of the day in all day to day matters. This is done by ensuring that the running of government institutions and agencies is not the prerogative of political cronies but of suitably qualified appointees.

The government proposal is one that ensures that Parliament, through it’s Standing Committees, will not be in a position to carry out any meaningful scrutiny.  Parliament needs to have the authority to block the appointments which it considers to be unsuitable and in order to be able to act in this manner, the government’s proposal needs to be heavily revisited.

It is for this reason that – in the recent general election manifesto (and even in that of the previous general election) – we Greens proposed a much more effective policy: that parliament (or its committees) should have the authority to decide, and not merely advise on, public appointments and that this should be done through a public hearing without limitations.

These are the essential building blocks of a healthy democracy.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 1st October 2017

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Il-ħatriet fil-pajjiż

coatofarms_malta

 

Il-PN qed jgħid li l-ħatriet importanti fil-pajjiż għandhom ikollhom l-approvazzjoni ta’ zewġ terzi tal-Parlament.

Issa din, meta tingħad, tinstema tajba. M’għandix dubju li l-iskop wara l-proposta hu wieħed tajjeb. Bħalissa kemm l-Ombudsman kif ukoll l-Awditur Ġenerali jinħatru b’dan il-mod u s’issa dejjem instabet soluzzjoni raġjonevoli għal dawn il-ħatriet. L-argument allura hu jekk dan il-metodu (taż-żewġ terzi) jagħmilx sens għal ħatriet oħra ukoll.

Issemmew żewġ karigi partikolari: dawk ta’ President tar-Repubblika u ta’ Kummissarju tal-Pulizija.

Ikun tajjeb, kif anke qalet diversi drabi Alternattiva Demokratika, li l-President tar-Repubblika ma jibqax jinħatar mill-Parlament waħdu. Minflok għandu jinħatar minn kulleġġ elettorali li jkun jinkludi ukoll (flimkien mal-Parlament)rappresentanza minn kull Kunsill Lokali.

Dwar il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija l-problema rejali hi li jkun evitat li l-ħatra tiegħu (jew għaliex le, tagħha) tkun tali li titneħħa l-konsiderazzjoni ta’ politika partiġjana bħala kriterju fl-għażla. Tul is-snin, kellna persuni ta’ eċċellenza li okkupaw il-kariga u kellna oħrajn ta’ inkompetenza grassa. Naħseb li l-għażla issir minn żewġ terzi tal-Parlament ma issolvi xejn. Proposta ta’ din ix-xorta tissogra paraliżi amministrattiva. Forsi jkun iktar għaqli li għal karigi ta’ importanza nazzjonali jkun meħtieġ l-approvazzjoni tal-Parlament, b’maġġoranza sempliċi. Imma approvazzjoni bħal din tkun teħtieg public hearing. Jiġifieri li l-persuna nominat tkun mgħarbla fil-pubbliku minn kumitat parlamentari.

Proposta ta’ din ix-xorta ma għandiex tapplika biss għall-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija imma għandha tapplika ukoll għall-ħatriet kollha ta’ ambaxxaturi u għat-tmexxija ta’ awtoritajiet u Dipartimenti tal-Gvern.

L-emfasi tiegħi mhux daqstant fuq il-ħtieġa tal-approvazzjoni mill-Parlament imma fuq li l-persuna proposta tkun mgħarbla fil-pubbliku. B’hekk tonqos il-possibilità tal-ħatra ta’ persuni inkompetenti kif ukoll ta’ persuni li l-unika kwalifika tagħhom tkun it-tessera tal-partit.

Naħseb li sistema bħal din, għalkemm bla dubju kontroversjali, hi iktar prattika mill-proposta tal-approvazzjoni mill-parlament b’maġġoranza ta’ żewġ terzi.

Il-ħatra ta’ Joseph Cuschieri bħala ambaxxatur għall-Greċja

Joseph Cuschieri

It-Times online tal-bieraħ ħabbret li hu imminenti li l-Gvern iħabbar il-ħatra tas-Sur Joseph Cuschieri bħala ambaxxatur ta’ Malta għall-Greċja.

Kull Gvern jagħmel ħatriet bħal dawn. Uħud minn dawn il-ħatriet ikunu ta’ benefiċċju għall-pajjiż. L-oħrajn ikunu ta’ benefiċċju biss għall-partit fil-Gvern.

Wasal iż-żmien li l-ambaxxaturi li jkunu ser jinħatru ikunu mgħarbla fil-pubbliku mill-Kumitat għall-Affarijiet Barranin tal-Parlament Malti. Bl-istess mod li jimxi s-Senat Amerikan qabel ma jiddeċiedi jekk jikkonfermax jew le l-ħatriet ta’ ambaxxaturi mill-President tal-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika.

 

L-Eċċellenza Tiegħu l-Ambaxxatur Lino Bianco

 

Lino Bianco. kandidat

M’għandi xejn kontra l-Perit Lino Bianco, dan l-aħħar ukoll Professur. Nirrispettaw lil xulxin.

Imma ma nistax ma nikkummentax dwar iċ-ċerimonja tal-bieraħ il-Ġimgħa li fiha l-President tar-Repubblika formalment tagħtu l-ħatra bħala Ambaxxatur ta’ Malta għar-Rumanija.

Iċ-ċerimonja ma kelliex issir f’nofs kampanja elettorali.

Lil Lino nafu bi ftit iżjed sens komun minn hekk. Jekk il-Gvern dan ma fehmux, messha ħadet l-inizzjattiva l-President tar-Repubblika billi ipposponiet iċ-ċerimonja għal wara l-24 ta’ Mejju.

Dan qed ngħidu mhux biss minħabba li Lino jista’ jiġi elett (avolja mhux probabbli) imma iktar minħabba li m’huwiex xieraq li persuna maħtura biex tirrappreżenta lir-Repubblika ta’ Malta bħala ambaxxatur tinvolvi ruħha f’attivita ta’ kontroversja politika. Safejn naf jiena m’hemmx kontroversja politika ikbar minn kampanja elettorali!

Dan dejjem jgħodd sakemm il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat m’hux qed jkkunsidra l-ex Ambaxxatur Richard Cachia Caruana (RCC) bħala mudell għall-imġieba xierqa tal-ambaxxaturi l-ġodda. Tul il-ħatra tiegħu bħala ambaxxatur RCC kien attiv ukoll fil-PN bħala membru tal-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tiegħu, apparti f’ħidma oħra ta’ politika partiġjana.